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Digestive Disease Makes Food Unbearable For Sufferers

Original post made by Kim Gorode, Stanford, on Mar 17, 2009

Imagine having difficulty swallowing every time you eat. Imagine it being so bad that the food becomes blocked by an inflamed esophagus, the organ that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. This is how some people suffering from a condition known as eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) live every day.

For people with EoE, food or allergens from the environment become deadly invaders, irritating the esophagus, making swallowing difficult and producing heartburn. Food can get stuck in a person's throat, requiring a trip to the emergency room to remove the obstruction. In severe cases, a patient must eliminate all food from his or her diet and be fed a formula through a tube into the stomach. The inability to consume food without problems can lead to poor growth in children and weight loss in adults.

EoE is an emerging gastrointestinal disease. Doctors and medical researchers are still investigating the causes and number of patients with this disease. Most gastrointestinal specialists have seen a dramatic rise in the number of patients diagnosed with EoE over the last decade. Due to increased awareness, the number of patients identified with EoE may actually be higher than wellrecognized inflammatory gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn's disease.

"Nine years ago, when my son was diagnosed with an eosino - philic disorder, it was a tremendous struggle to finally identify what was causing him to be ill. Since then, the medical community has learned much more about this very serious disease that robs people of their ability to enjoy something the rest of us take for granted every day," said Beth Mays, president and founder of the American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders, an organization supporting patients and their families coping with eosinophilic disorders.

EoE can be hard to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to those of other diseases including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), food allergies and inflammatory bowel disease. Often, doctors and parents will go through a series of treatments before arriving at a diagnosis of EoE. EoE can be diagnosed using a biopsy, which is a medical test involving the removal of cells or tissues for examination.

While there is no FDA approved drug to treat patients with EoE, there are treatments specific for EoE being studied in people. One such potential drug, currently in clinical trials for pediatric EoE, is oral viscous budesonide (OVB), a new formulation of a drug already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in many other forms for the treatment of allergic diseases. OVB is designed to deliver budesonide to the esophagus, the site of the allergic reaction, and is intended to treat the inflammation and symptoms associated with pediatric EoE.

The effects of EoE can inhibit patients and their caregivers from going about their daily lives. EoE is currently being studied by local physician Dr. Kari Nadeau Assistant Professor and Director of Allergy/Immunology Clinics at Stanford University. It is important for people experiencing EoE to consult a physician. Those interested in helping to shape the future of EoE treatment can participate in EoE clinical trials by visiting www.clinicaltrials.gov and speaking with their doctor.

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